Simple measures can significantly reduce the risk of a potentially life-ending hip fracture, a leading expert says - and it isn't just people with osteoporosis who are at risk.
University of Technology Sydney's world-leading osteoporosis expert Tuan Nguyen spearheaded a recent study on the prevalence of hip fracture and measures that can be taken to prevent it.
Professor Nguyen and his team found factors such as smoking, exercise and nutrition - including vitamin D and calcium intake, had a significant impact on bone health.
Osteoporosis occurs when bones become weak and brittle due to a decrease in bone mineral density and mass.
Professor Nguyen said while people with osteoporosis are at increased risk of hip fracture, the majority of fractures occur in people who do not have the disease.
"It is important for everyone, especially the elderly, to take action to improve their bone health," Professor Nguyen said.
"Bone mineral density is modifiable, and even small improvements reduce the risk of a fracture."
Researchers analysed data from the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study - one of the longest running studies on osteoporosis in the world.
It includes data on more than 3000 individuals older than 60 years who were tracked over time for instances of fracture and associated risk factors.
The team found that between the first group (recorded from 1988-92) and the second (1999-2001), bone mineral density increased by 3 per cent. They found there was a 45 per cent decrease in hip fractures over the two periods, a decline typically associated with a 10 per cent rise in bone mineral density.
The findings support the view that lifestyle factors can also play a role in reducing risks.
Epidemiologist and first author Thach Tran said the study findings suggested strategies would be more effective if aimed at those deemed to be of low to moderate risk, as opposed to high risk individuals.
"The findings also imply that the categorisation of bone mineral density into osteoporosis or non-osteoporosis based on an arbitrary threshold is not an optimal approach for identifying people at high risk of fracture," Dr Tran said.
Hip fractures dramatically increase the risk of death, especially in the elderly.
Around 37 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women die within one year of a hip fracture. Fractures also cause significant pain and suffering, loss of mobility and independence, and increased healthcare costs.
The study was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, with co-authors from The Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Sydney. For more information click here.
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